Vacation & Sovereignty

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Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

All of a sudden, my brother sends me a diatribe about living in Hawaii:

“I dunno if ma told you, but we are moving back to my beloved San Francisco.

We are getting some great job offers there that we have never gotten here in Hawaii for six years of looking. This place is great for visiting, but living here as a resident is becoming more and more untenable every year.

This is not my Hawaii anymore.

Everywhere I look, I see how mine & Cris’ memories are profaned for that ole tourist dollar.

San Francisco is still as awesome and progressive as it always has been — now more than ever. $15 minimum wage, worker’s rights laws that work, legal marijuana, and employers that pay 100% insurance.

Hawaii will never catch up. At least not in our lifetimes. The Frank Fasi politicians are gone. (The greatest mayor ever.)”

I’m reading this latest text, thinking, “Dude, you were homeless in your beloved San Francisco for years.” Remember that?

Hawaii and SF both have the highest cost of living in the country, not to mention the highest number of homeless. Although San Francisco’s whipping that rate into shape with honest change.

My brother’s right on one major count: This isn’t the Hawaii we remember growing up. Check out Haunani-Kay Trask’s “Tourism and the Prostitution of Hawaiian Culture” on Cultural Survival. I couldn’t stand her activist ass when I was a longtime resident, but the woman has a point.

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Not my Hawai’i. Not anymore.

When I left in the mid-’90s, Hawaii was already headed into the no-man’s-land of putting all its eggs in the tourism industry — to the detriment of all other self-sustaining industries that would actually benefit the people (and I’m not talking about Oprah Winfrey’s).

You wouldn’t believe how far Hawaii’s fallen. Yes, even beloved Maui, a tourist mecca.

Everything and I mean everything is geared toward rich, privileged tourists, heavy on the Asian influx, just like in the 1980s through ’90s. In Waikiki, most signage includes Japanese first then maybe English. When Ed and I last went there three years ago, we tried to get seated at a sushi place in the Sheraton Waikiki. The Japanese-only hostess stared blankly at us. We left for McDonald’s. Also in Japanese. Plenty pineapple. Japanese visitors love associate pineapple with paradise, after all.

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Circa July 2010… unreal, yeah?

I couldn’t tell locals from tourists, either. Japanese, Chinese, and Korean nationals have bought up the priceless island real estate and live there at least half the year. They live among the sparsely populated locals — once a proud, ethnically mixed plate.

Politicians spouting the same old feel-good, fake-aloha story (allegedly) make sweetheart deals with developers for all-encompassing resort towns prostituting the bare-bones surface stereotype of island living — manufacturing pre-packaged experiences for only the top 1 percent of outsiders willing to spend a lot to act like locals.

It’s no longer the Hawaii I knew.

The skies literally aren’t blue anymore, but the same shady gray of a Los Angeles or Hong Kong.

I used to be able to smell plumeria touching down on the tarmac of Honolulu International Airport. Now, it’s just diesel fumes, secondhand smoke, and desperation.

Still, my son and his friend are down there trying to enjoy what’s left of their summer vacation. My humble ohana (mom and brother) are taking care of them as best as they know how with what little they have left.

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“Omg this place is amazing…. And the pizza came with white truffle oil and I don’t know whether I like it or not.”

My hope for James and Trey is that they discover a little piece of the paradise my brother and I once enjoyed growing up… in the local people they talk to, including those living in tents by the beach and on the sidewalks of downtown Chinatown. I hope they see what greedy politicians, developers, and their high-priced clientele have done to the islands and the islanders displaced by one trashy commodity, tourism at all costs, even to sovereignty and whatever made Hawaii Hawai’i.

I hope they stay the hell out of Waikiki, except to spread the wealth around to the street performers.

I hope they experience the real Hawaii that I once fell in love with.

And, I hope they leave the islands better than they found it.

How’s your summer?

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Boots

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Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

Nice boots.

Brown, for hiking, with panels of simulated wood on the side. This tall, familiar, drink of water hands them to me.

“Hey, can you pick me up a new pair if you’re in the neighborhood?” He kisses my cheek.

I can’t believe it. I babble something about replacing shoes every three to six months. He leaves for his next gig. We’re in the middle of a soundcheck.

For the longest time, I took everything in my dreams to heart. Linear, logical thinking. The way we all do.

Gosh, he must really be in love with me in real life!

Not so fast.

Ever hear of the simulation theory, multi-verse, and avatars?

That’s what’s happening in my dreams.

Sometimes, it’s really me, or some version of me. Most times, though, it’s me watching a show but I’m in it, playing the part of someone else, someone completely different.

Imagine being me, trying to sort through what’s real and what’s make-believe, in my dreams and real-life. Yeah, and I’m also psychic.

Now, I’m thinking… What if the TV shows and movies I consume are coming back up in my dreams, as well? What if I’m merely regurgitating the images I see elsewhere, cooked up by Hollywood and the like?

It’s entirely plausible that I’m channeling Shannon on the latest E! reality-TV series, “Very Cavallari,” instead of me with another Nashville musician I know who’s more into jazz and metal than sappy folk-country.

I mean, boots? Gross.

 

Photography Shift

 

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I’ve always liked to take pictures, mostly of other people and arresting landscapes. I got that from my dad, along with his journalism (he wrote for the Army’s “Stars & Stripes”) and self-destructive, angry, judgy misanthropy.

I’m quick to say I’m not a professional, although — if pressed — I could go fully manual on you, and wield a Nikon FM2 like a real reporter. Fun fact: I have done double-duty as a hired associate editor and freelance writer for a few publications in Hawaii.

I could spend days on a soccer or baseball field shooting my friends’ children. Fun fact: I have — and those kids love me for it.

Like my dad, I prefer to take candids. I loathe the posed bullshit like my mom does, but I understand their importance.

 

I think I like candids of people, places, and things outside myself, because they allow me to disappear, to serve others, to feel safe behind the scenes. Even before the abuse kicked me square in the guts robbed me of my true identity, I felt more comfortable behind the scenes and in the front row, watching the world come to life.

As an aside, I would’ve made a great director. When I was seven-eight, I used to direct my neighborhood friends on 7th St. in Ft. Shafter when we tried to put on shows from my front shed. I could see stories in random people, imagine feature films, even back then.

Anyway, these are some of my favorite photos, taken by me in the past when I was not happy with myself, my marriage, and my choices. I was well over 200 pounds, on the verge of diabetes, maybe even divorce… I watched everything and everyone I ever loved get taken from me.

I’d given up.

—until I picked up a camera.

Special characters, special moments, random shots, scenes from vacation, Green Lake, Washington, a Voices of Praise choir practice, Spring, Hill, Florida after my in-laws died, Rebecca and Rick’s wedding reception, St. Martin, the Puyallup Fair, home on and endless autumn loop…

Enjoy.

Top Ramen Eulogy

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Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

let her shine, all 350 290 180 250 pounds of her
red pubic hair when she makes up her face and shits out another afterthought
a nose job, lap band, tummy tuck
one can’t be too sure,
surrounded by all that white trash magnanimity on an Oprah high
plastic white fences, rotting teeth, beer breath fat fucking lakeside housewives
giving blowjobs on the side of their ’80s hair metal potluck parties

she’s the aging ingénue of their Lay’s Potato Chip Club, share and share alike
hiding behind lifelong friendships, an endless parade of likes and what-have-yous,
the loving family she watches from behind, feasting on the crumbs of the unsaved —
a look of what could have been if only in her mind where all the pretty horses go

let her enjoy the spotlight,
he will hide in the dark, picking up scraps, an anemic, anorexic man without a spine

Buddha Bowl

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Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

One of my favorite things growing up in Louisville was a bowl of freshly picked blackberries in milk. I picked the blackberries, I poured the milk.

Easy as pie.

Aaah. I ate my blackberry cereal with childlike gusto on the front porch of my and my mom’s friend’s trailers as the sun set its gloomy burnt ember.

I also dug into Kentucky barbecues. Friends and family gathered around the grill and the coolers overflowing with ice, Pepsi or Coke, the smell of burgers and hot dogs, every pie imaginable. To this day, I can barely stand to even look at cherry pie…

My life is a series of dichotomies: gluttony vs. clean, King Henry VIII vs. a monk, blackberries or pie.

Here I am again on that dirt road in Kentucky, about to pick blackberries for my grown-up almond milk. I may very well never turn back.

Every time I spectacularly fall off the clean-eating wagon, usually after a vacation bender, I end up contemplating that perennial fork in the road.

Left to my own devices, I’d gladly live like a monk, grazing on fruit and vegetables, the occasional cheese platter, a bowl of rice and tofu. For the longest period of my life spent alone — between 1986 to 1989 — I jogged six-plus miles and ate one meal a day, freeing up the weekend for junk food benders.

I really messed up on my most recent vacation to Spokane and Missoula. For some reason, it’s almost impossible for me to stick to a low-carb, no-sugar diet on other people’s schedules. (No shit.)

I get “Vacation” stuck in my head in neon lights, plus I’m stuck with a husband and son, mostly husband, who peer-pressure me into late-night ice cream runs.

All of a sudden, that cheese and mixed berry danish at the Farmer’s Market trumps the produce. Pretty soon, danish, cookies, cakes, pizza and biscuits are all I can think about.

Even when I wasn’t hungry, my food addiction kicked back in with a venom. Cracker Barrel, spaghetti and meatballs, cheeseburgers and fries, even Carolina BBQ… Who am I?!

It’s as if I’m on Death Row and this vacation is my last meal.

I managed to walk for exercise five of the 10 days, though. I even swam in the hotel pools two separate times. That’s something, right?

When I returned home, I went back to monk mode, eating less again, and then, eyeing the power bowl section in the supermarket of the universal mind.

I keep seeing power or Buddha bowls on social media. They’re enticing, that’s for sure. Neat, tidy, clean, cute and definitely healthy. Definitely the real me. Honest.

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Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

I used to prefer mixing my food into one unhealthy pile of gravy boat. Nowadays, I can’t stand mushy messy piles of any kind of food. I like guacamole in whole, slightly firm chunks, with soft-boiled or poached eggs. Otherwise, I feel nauseous. (Have you ever seen creamy vomit guac? Gross.)

I’m now on Day Three of Buddha Bowling. I’m seriously considering veganism, with the end goal of going totally raw, which I’ve never done before. I’d have to get over the one stumbling block that is my Korean mom’s soft tofu jigae with seafood, rice, and fried mackerel, or miso butterfish.

I started small, and I started with less not more, so as to not get overwhelmed. I tend to pile too many ingredients in my power bowls and my smoothies.

Amber Lee Sears (@epicself on IG) inspired me to get started. I’ve been watching her empowering videos for a few weeks now, daring to believe I could transform into her, lithe and lean, a former ballet dancer-turned-yoga master.

What really helped kickstart my Buddha power-bowling was watching her put together a power smoothie, using only four ingredients, including a banana and a Gala apple. Her smoothie was so simple. She broke every rule of making smoothies in the Vitamix. She didn’t cut up the fruit into itty-bitty pieces, but a few large, careless chunks. She added green protein powder filled with Spirulina and other good greens. She made up her own rules, based on what she learned and what she likes.

So that’s what I started to do.

I went with my gut, as well. I didn’t argue with myself. I didn’t question it. I just did it.

I’m on Day 3. I plan to slowly ease my way into the wild, wonderful world of veganism, eventually going raw — whether my family’s on board or not.

I feel better subsisting primarily on fruits and vegetables. I’m more regular too, which is crucial to my improved digestive health. I’ve been suffering for years now from what feels like backed-up bowels. I even went to the ER last January for it. Every morning or in the middle of the night, I’d wake up with horrible stomach pain.

Today, I wanted blackberries in almond (unsweetened) milk, with some honey and banana.

It took me back to my Kentucky childhood.

I think I’m on the right path for once.

ABRA

 

I buried him beneath autumn leaves. I felt the crunch
of monster rolls, heard a choir of altos altars, saw a thousand diminishing sunsets.

“He was.” “I do.” “I’m fucked up.”

Last night, my husband said after a while, “Is it wrong that I didn’t feel anything after my parents died? I mean, I felt bad, but —”

Watching Tyler Henry read celebrity clients on “Hollywood Medium” didn’t really help either of us. They all seem really close to their relatives, all the way up the family tree to great-grandparents when I barely remember mine or none at all.

I imagine my reading to go something like this:

[scribbling for two minutes] 

“I’m sorry. I can’t get anything from the dead. Do you have any questions about your life?”

“What is my purpose? Wait, let me answer that for you. Sorry to have wasted 15 minutes of your time.”

For real.

It’s all a bit too much like watching a TV series from the past. Binge-watching friends and acquaintances as they “pick up the pieces” and “find love.”

I don’t feel their kind of pain, the kind that eats them up inside and scares them away for months and months, perhaps years. What do they do in hiding? Are they ever bored not talking to anyone outside their lonely, agonizing universe? Do they go out for Chinese takeout? Uber-Eats?

Sarah told me at least twice in the past year, “When I suffer, I go dark.”

I go dark too, but I talk, I write, I reach out. I have to, or I’ll go insane, I’d die.

Summer’s are tough on my sinuses. The heat dries out my nose, which causes me to make sounds when I breathe in and out.

But the dreams are insanely vivid, more real than my real life.

Before I finally fell asleep last night (technically morning), my mind began to circle a slowly developing word around the “A” and the “B.” Not quite ABBA, the Swedish pop band. Closer to BRA and related to the sudden question, “Did the Missoula farmer talk us into buying daikon instead of a rare white radish?”

The actual dream involved us preparing for a play, with me in a leading role. I’d memorized my lines but still needed the script — our only copy of my dialogue. In between turning in and checking for articles due on a magazine I worked for off and on, I’d misplaced my script. I frantically looked high and low for it in vain. Turned out a band of criminals had stolen it and were trying to keep me from making the curtain call.

When I woke up, I went online to look up, ABRA — the solidified word in question. ABRA is many symbolic things, including a telepathic Pokemon that sleeps 18 hours yet has the power to teleport itself out of danger way before it happens.

I also went on Unsplash to scroll photos. After doing a random search on Coca Cola — I don’t know why, it just popped in my head — I found one of five that I liked enough to download for a future blog, social media header, screensaver.

One of them is by a photographer named Bethan Abra.

I’m taking orders for the LOTTO.

Dead End Barbecue

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Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

I walk around my neighborhood when the sun sets. It’s much cooler in the summer, less traffic. The view on the descent is as beautiful as a suburb can get: a brocade of American trees, blue sewage pipes, shadows you can never afford, the ozone-free white sun, borrowed memories, these voices inside my head.

The voices keep me company, because I don’t know where to go to find you.

Tonight, I listened to three beautiful souls talk about the Mandela Effect and our multi-verse avatars. Suddenly, I was in the leaves. A scent of poetry overtook me.

a certain plant,
a late-night rape,
I walk your burrows,
hiding from the light

“He was.”

Should I sell my bike?

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Photo by John Westrock on Unsplash

I woke up to hear about a friend’s husband passing away.

Radio silence doesn’t always mean ghosting, separation, or FOMO.

Like any decent human, I reached out. Thoughts & prayers. To my personal credit, I refrained from the pedantic, gratuitous posturing so many of us knee-jerk into on social media when a celebrity’s death demands some mass wake.

I thought hard about offering more, then added in my short email, “If you need anything,” like that matters. Only, when I say it, I mean every word.

I also refrained from going on social media to pile on. The easy way out.

But, inside, I thought, “You’re free now. Thank G-d. Now you can live your life on your terms without that man pulling on the leash.”

I’m trying to ignore the other, less-charitable thoughts playing bumper cars in my head. There’s a daughter who seems to live for the spotlight — will she milk this for all it’s worth? How about the ex-daughter-in-law, who infamously got in that now-dead-man’s face after her child’s lakeside birthday party, screaming at dear old dad in a drunken rage of self-righteous Narcissist love? Will she try to ingratiate herself, rewrite her resume on the backs of those she left behind? How long before his browbeaten, long-suffering son follows?

In truth, none of that’s my business. I barely know these people. I barely know anyone, least of all myself.

I only know that there are bicycles, boxes, refrigerators, clothes, and other shrapnel in my life that needs purging. I’m too lazy and disorganized to take photos and copious notes of each item for eBay or Craig’s List.

I can barely keep track of my email password!

And, our stuff’s too good for Good Will. Maybe the gang of thieves running around Redmond stealing bikes can come over to our garage…

I truly am sorry, though. I lost my father a long time ago, FWIW. It wasn’t a big deal. He was just as much of a dick as this guy, maybe more.

I haven’t lost as many loved ones as most of you. A Korean grandmother I didn’t give much of a shit about — she made horrible accusations, my father’s parents — they assumed I was a whore, like my mother, the only kind (but not real) Aunt Lillian, the first boy I planned to marry who died of AIDS, Terri…

I know there are more coming, myself included.

I know I need to get out of this rut and live the way I should, knowing this.

Sing out loud in public. Dance. Laugh. Scream my own accusations. Kiss a boy. Go to that Mandela Effect Convention down South. Something.

Yesterday, I went to the Country Market up in Edmonds to stock up on the summer. Just as I’m about to head out with my kale, avocado, and berries, I hear this man say to himself, “I can’t believe they still make this candy!”

Everyone ignores him.

On a whim, I go over and peer at the package of Old Fashioned French Burnt Peanuts he’s holding up. “I remember those, too!”

He laughed, then winked at me. “We won’t tell anyone how much this ages us!”

Later, he’s in the checkout line, voice booming, singing along to Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” He can sing. I mean, really sing.

“Summer, man!” he enthuses, to no one in particular. “I mean, we deserve it!”

One man in line agrees. I smile to myself. Everyone else stares or ignores him, trapped inside their To-Do lists, victims of society’s ill-conceived constructs. Like time.

A normal day becomes extraordinary, because of that one man who tapped into his childhood. He didn’t care what anyone thought about him. He just lived.

I want that. Help me.

Airbnb

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Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash

“My grandfather recently passed away. Less than 24 hours prior to a pre planned trip to visit him. His life was 95 orbits around our sun.” —Sarah Herrin, “Flight. Plight. Sight.,” Blogspherical Black Hole, Jan. 15, 2017

“31 times around the sun ☀️🥂celebrating on the Oregon coast.” —Amy Mann, Facebook, July 11, 2018

I saw my future on the side of a bicycle shop, moving pictures of snowboarders, retroactive thoughts of Audrey and her dance.

The answer is on the tip of my tongue, an elusive word to connect it all, the dot dot dot crumbs in these woods this forest — forgotten by the 12 dwarves, a dog named Manu, I left behind. His furry little head, broken and sad, rests in a ghost on my bloated feet.

One day, I will lose my mind to figure it out.

Until then, you can count the 365 days around the sun. I am on scorched earth, looking for African garnet trash, like a Sade video.

Dmitri Fig

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Photo by Rob Sarmiento on Unsplash

Tony Robbins strings me along, 4G string theory
his skies are a strange cloud of blue, sending me to an NFL football game,
where everyone is celebrating. My job, my passion,
is this lone defiant fig dangling from a small pear tree on a far away neighbor’s yard

I can taste victory through the volume setting on this digital device.

It is raining hard where we are. I ask you where you’ve been,
and you hand me a cup of coffee. You smell of honeysuckle and raspberries.

Our interview begins when I tell you,
I love you.